Breastfeeding until age 3, 4, or 5: more common than you think?

When my daughter was born four and a half years ago, I had no plan for how long I would breastfeed her, I just knew that I would start off breastfeeding and then go with the flow. It so happens that in our case going with the flow meant that one month shy of her fourth birthday she was still nursing (albeit only once a day), and as I would soon discover, we weren’t the only ones on this path.

Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov
Photo courtesy Alexander Tundakov

I wrote my thoughts about this shortly before her fourth birthday in a post titled On Nursing a Preschooler.

I didn’t set out to nurse a preschooler, but somehow along the way, my sweet little baby grew from an infant to a toddler and eventually blossomed into a preschooler in what now seems like the blink of an eye. I am confident this won’t go on forever and when I look back on this time when she’s 10 or 20 or 30, and I look at the young woman she’s become, I am hopeful that I will feel good about the choices I made and have no regrets.

When I wrote that post I was feeling rather isolated and wondered if there were others who’d chosen (either deliberately or unintentionally) to take the long-term (a preferred alternative term to “extended”) breastfeeding route. I soon got my answer. I received 62 comments on that post. Amazingly none of them were negative and several came from women saying that they too nursed an older child and many thanked me for talking about it openly.

Lisa from The Joy of Six said, “I’m so glad you posted this. I’ve nursed mine until they stopped which has been anywhere from 14 mo to 4. Thanks for letting all those ‘closet nursing’ mommies know they aren’t alone.”

Melissa at Through My Window said: “The whole time I was nursing both of my girls past the age of 4 I always wished that I could talk about it and that more moms were willing to admit that they were nursing for a long time too. My girls only nursed at nap-time and bedtime as they became older which meant only 1-2 times/day. Of course, they are weaned now, but I have no regrets and I would absolutely nurse future children as long.”

Liesl from Come, Mommy, who was tandem nursing both her 4 1/2 year old and baby at the time, said:

Got a 4.5 year-old-nursling over here! Sometimes it is a lot to nurse two, but on the other hand, it’s one of the few times Liam will settle down for a bit. Then after he nurses, he’ll sit around and chat, and that’s when I often find out the things on his mind. And I think it’s eased his transition to brotherhood as well. Nursing a 4 year old is a very different thing than nursing a baby, and it is most definitely not for everyone, but overall I’m glad I stayed with it.

Nina (no blog listed) said:

I think it is important for those who think breast feeding a preschooler is *bad* that in many, many parts of the world this is quite normal. Only with the invasion of TVs and computers (whereby the views of more advanced countries are shown) have many moms stopped breastfeeding after about 1 year, they seem to think that the entire world is like that.

My mother was a midwife before she married my father and she very, very strongly rec. breast feeding until the child was ready to wean on his/her own and this was back in the 50’s!

Heather at A Mama’s Blog shared with me a story from her former employer:

My old boss told me an interesting story a few years ago. He was in his 60’s at the time, and grew up in the country. He said when he went to school at lunch time the “little” boys about ages 6 and 7 would go home to nurse. There wasn’t a lot of food at that time, and the mothers also used it as a form of birth control.

I thought that was pretty interesting that just in the 1940s, nursing a 6 and 7 year old was perfectly acceptable. Too bad we have come so far in the other direction in the last 60 years.

I also took an informal poll (if you will) on Twitter to see if others are nursing or have nursed children ages 3 and up. I was rather surprised by the number of replies I received.

Tomorrow evening, Jan. 2, barring any late-breaking big news stories, ABC’s 20/20 is set to air an episode featuring segments on long-term (extended) breastfeeding, as well as home birth (both with and without midwives), serial surrogates (women that have numerous babies for other women), “fake babies” (life-like dolls), and orgasmic birth. I believe the title for the show is “Extreme Mothering.” You can see a preview of the breastfeeding segment, which included an interview with the mother of a 6-year-old boy who still nurses, as well as an interview with the boy, on ABC News.

Although I put together a decent little list of mothers and children who are long-term breast-feeders (and that’s without searching on the ‘net for other bloggers or celebrities – yes, there are some), there will, undoubtedly, still be those who think it is weird, gross, damaging, or just plain wrong. If you find yourself in that camp, you might want to consider the following.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Pediatricians and parents should be aware that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient to support optimal growth and development for approximately the first 6 months of life‡ and provides continuing protection against diarrhea and respiratory tract infection. Breastfeeding should be continued for at least the first year of life and beyond for as long as mutually desired by mother and child.” AAP goes on to say, “There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” (AAP 2005)
  • The World Health Organization recommends “infants should be exclusively breastfed(1) for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health(2). Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.
  • The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends that breastfeeding continue throughout the first year of life and that “Breastfeeding beyond the first year offers considerable benefits to both mother and child, and should continue as long as mutually desired.” They also note that “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.” (AAFP 2001)
  • Former US Surgeon General Antonio Novello, MD has stated that it is a lucky baby who continues to nurse until age two.
  • When to Stop Breastfeeding Your Child: A Case for Extended Nursing includes the many benefits of extended nursing
  • Additionally, there are more position statements from various organizations linked up on KellyMom

But wait, there’s more. According to Summer Minor in her post Is 4 too old to be breastfed?,”Biologically, 4 years is still in the normal range for humans.”

The book Breastfeeding: Biocultural Perspectives contains a wonderful section called “A Time to Wean: The Hominid Blueprint for a Natural Age of Weaning in Modern Human Populations.” by Katherine A. Dettwyler, Ph.D. Dr. Dettwyler is an award winning anthropologist, professor, and breastfed her daughter until she was 4 years old. In the section Dettwyler compares various primates, including humans, to find what the biological norm would be for humans. She found that the natural age for modern humans based on our size, development, and life span is between 2.5 years and 7 years. A child still nursing at 4 years old is normal, natural, and OK.

If you find yourself long-term nursing your child, there’s a good chance that at some point you will run into criticism from others. La Leche League International has some good advice for handling criticism from family, friends or even complete strangers.

If you’re facing criticism, remember that they may simply be uninformed about the benefits of extended breastfeeding or perhaps they feel guilt about their own parenting choices. Consider responding to unwelcome comments by:

  • Ignoring: walking away or changing the subject.
  • Informing: sharing books, articles, or a medical professional’s thoughts on extended nursing.
  • Using Humor: making a joke about the situation or yourself, not the other person.
  • Acknowledging: recognizing the person’s viewpoint and asking further questions without agreeing or disagreeing
  • Empathizing: being empathetic to demonstrate that you understand the other person’s feeling and meaning (Vakiener 1999).

Dr. William Sears has some advice about handling the criticism as well. Here are some things he suggests you keep in mind:

  • Science is on your side.
  • World opinion is on your side.
  • It’s better for your health.
  • It’s better for your toddler’s behavior.
  • Blame it on your doctor.
  • Let your child silence the critics.

For more information about each of these suggestions, visit Ask Dr. Sears: Extended Breastfeeding — Handling the Criticism.

There’s additional information about Handling Criticism about Breastfeeding at KellyMom.

Speaking of KellyMom, which is a wonderful resource for all things breastfeeding, if you are the mother of a long-term nurser and are looking for support, check out their forums. There’s a forum for nursing children ages 3 and up. There are also forums for the toddler years – ages 12-24 months and ages 24-36 months.

While I decided to focus primarily on older children in this post, many women on Twitter chimed in that they are nursing their kids to age two as well, including: Reiza at Stepping Off the Spaceship, Summer at Wired for Noise, Mom Most Traveled, Annie at PhD in Parenting, Sherri at Recovering Sociopath, and Sara (who was breast-fed herself until age 4 1/2) at Custom-Made Milk, among others.

While I’m sure some of my relatives thought my daughter would nurse “forever,” I can assure you she did not. Her last nursing was on Oct. 3, 2008, at age 4 years, 3 months and 11 days. It was mostly child-led, although I did nudge her a bit at the end. I felt that she was ready, but needed a little extra push (and I knew I was ready). It was bittersweet, but I think it went quite smoothly. I hope to write about the experience one day soon before I forget it. It is yet to be seen what my son will decide to do. As for now, he’s still going strong nursing at 25 months.

It is my hope that as a result of segments like the one on 20/20 and the fact that more women are feeling comfortable speaking out about long-term nursing (as evidenced by all of the comments and Tweets I received), that others will not feel like they need to be “closet nursers” nor feel pressured by family, friends or society in general to wean before they feel it is right for them and their child. Let’s trust our judgment to do what’s right for our child and trust the judgment of other moms to do what’s right for their child too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer. I’d love it if you’d share your comments there too! 🙂

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Giving birth can be good, ecstatic and even orgasmic

I know I just wrote about this topic last week, but I have more to share and wrote about it for BlogHer this week.

Last week, Lisa Belkin, parenting blogger at The NY Times, wrote about the upcoming 20/20 special on the film “Orgasmic Birth.” The topic apparently hit a nerve with many, many people as she quickly received more than 500 comments.

Many people, as to be expected, are skeptical.

Mir of Woulda Coulda Shoulda had the most humorous response I read to the idea.

As soon as I

1) Find a man with a 9-pound penis
and
2) Become drunk enough to let him put it inside me for thirty hours at a time

I’ll definitely see if those conditions can result in an orgasm.

But until then? Whatever, man.

Catherine, who blogs at Her Bad Mother, had similar feelings and said, “Me, personally …? I think that I’ll stick to getting my orgasms the old-fashioned way.”

The day after Lisa Belkin’s initial NY Times post she followed up with About that orgasmic birth… and went into a little more detail about the responses she received, the film and one of the women featured in the film.

I was not surprised at the number of comments that dismissed the possibility as a fairytale. I was very surprised at the number of women who wrote to say that they had experienced what the film explored. I was a little distressed at the hostility the first of these groups showed to the second. And I was somewhat surprised, and very pleased, to receive an e-mail from Tamra Larter, one of the subjects of the film, who had been following all the comments, and wanted to make a few of her own.

It’s really worth it to click over there to read what Ms. Larter had to say about the film and her birthing experience, but here’s a snippet.

“I hope people will see the film,” she wrote. “Then they will see that it is about much more than the title suggests. There are many choices and possibilities when it comes to birth.”

And she uses the word “orgasm” with conditions. “I never claimed to have a pain-free birth,” she wrote, “but laboring with my daughter was awesome and for the most part felt really good.” The actual “orgasmic experience” did not feel like the climax of sex, she says, but rather “sensations which were something different than sex, but similar enough I feel O.K. using the word orgasmic. It was a wonderful feeling.”

She also confessed that upon first hearing about the idea of orgasmic birth, she thought it was “gross,” “weird,” and “not possible,” but said it was before she had had any children and the only childbirth she had seen had been on TV.

After reading many comments and several blogs about this, I clicked over to the Orgasmic Birth web site, where I watched the trailer (again). The first time I watched it was many months ago and I felt a refresher was in order.

I admit that even with all of the birth videos I’ve watched in the past and my “crunchy” ways, it makes me shift uncomfortably in my seat to hear a woman making pleasurable sounds while in childbirth (or in any situation really). And yet, I see the whole “orgasmic birth” thing as being just a small piece of the film, and believe it is titled the way it is to grab our attention. (And it’s certainly worked, hasn’t it?) I still believe, as I wrote on my blog over a week ago, “that it does not appear they are not saying all women will have an orgasm or that an orgasm should even be the goal. I think the point is moreso that birth can be a good experience.”

Marsden Wagner, MD, who is interviewed in the film, makes an excellent point about childbirth saying, “It’s got to be like it is when you make love with someone. It’s got to be safe, secure and uninterrupted. And that is how you have an orgasmic birth.”

I do not want to turn this into a debate over home birth vs. hospital birth, but having had both types of births I will say I felt much more safe, secure and uninterrupted at home than I did in the hospital. Although I’m sure it’s possible, I think that for the most part, these “orgasmic births” are much more likely to occur in a birthing center or home environment than in the hospital.

I think the term “orgasmic birth” is subject to interpretation too and noticed that on the Orgasmic Birth site, in their call for birth stories they say, “Please share your ecstatic or orgasmic birth story with us.” I would never say that I had an orgasm while giving birth to my son, but the experience was amazingly intense and was one of the most empowering moments in my life. Does that mean it was an orgasmic birth? Maybe. Was it an ecstatic birth? I believe it was.

Ninotchka had an empowering birth experience as well and commented about it on my blog:

I can’t say that I had an orgasm while giving birth. But after birthing Elle right into my hand, I felt so triumphant and organically happy that I would certainly call that feeling “orgasmic.” It all happened so fast and we’d waited so long for that little sweetheart. It was a definite rush and I was absolutely elated.

I think giving birth will always conjure up different ideas and feelings for different people. No two births are exactly the same and I think that’s the way it should be. Innerbrat summed it all up nicely when she said, “The important thing here, as with everything regarding women’s health, is to give women the ownership of our own bodies, so we can make an informed, conscious decision about what’s best for us and our children; and the first and best way to be informed is to openly talk about the subject.”

ABC’s 20/20 special on Orgasmic Birth, which will also include segments on home birth (unassisted and midwife-attended) and long-term breastfeeding, is currently set to air Friday, Jan. 2, 2009.

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

Ask President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a priority

This morning President-elect Barack Obama reaffirmed his strong commitment to health care reform. The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) believes that breastfeeding is an “essential public health issue” and should be a high priority for the incoming administration. In light of this, the USBC has created a petition urging President-elect Obama to make breastfeeding a high priority. The petition is up to more than 6400 signatures and growing.

firstnursing.jpg

USBC points out that beyond the numerous health benefits to both mother and child, breastfeeding also provides “significant economic and environmental benefits for families, employers, and society.” According to the USBC (definitions in parentheses are mine):

Excess health care costs totaling more than $4 billion must be paid by the U.S. health care system each year to treat otitis media (middle ear infection), gastroenteritis (infection or irritation of the stomach and intestines), and necrotizing enterocolitis (an acute inflammatory disease occurring in the intestines of premature infants) – childhood diseases and conditions preventable or reduced by breastfeeding. When prevention of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic conditions is factored in, the potential economic benefits of breastfeeding are significantly greater.

The petition calls for President-elect Obama to:

1. Instruct the Surgeon General to issue a statement in support of breastfeeding urging all sectors (governmental and non-governmental) involved in supporting women, children, and families to improve their breastfeeding policies.

2. Enact a national paid family leave policy.

3. Endorse the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes as well as the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding.

4. Ask the Federal Trade Commission to monitor infant formula marketing.

5. Ask the Food and Drug Administration to include labeling on powdered infant formula warning that it is not sterile and providing instructions on how to properly reconstitute it.

6. Highlight the benefits for employers of workplace breastfeeding support programs as part of your program to promote flexible work arrangements.

7. Urge all insurers to cover lactation care and support services.

8. Approve an increase in breastfeeding support funds for the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), especially to support the peer counseling program.

9. Instruct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to recommend that all hospitals achieve the Baby-Friendly designation.

10. Ensure that emergency management agencies are trained in breastfeeding support and have breastfeeding supply kits available for distribution in emergencies.

If you agree, I hope you will sign the petition too.

Also this morning President-elect Obama appointed former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle to Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Director of the new White House Office on Health Reform.

In his remarks, Secretary-designate Daschle appealed to Americans to play an active role in health reform by signing up to lead a health care discussion — a series of meetings everyday people are hosting, in which they’ll gather ideas and report back to the Transition’s Health Policy Team. The team will then incorporate the results into its recommendations for the Obama-Biden administration. He said it’s up ordinary Americans to “share their ideas about what’s broken and how to fix it” by leading a health care discussion.

This looks like another great opportunity to impress upon the incoming administration the need to make breastfeeding a priority.

Angela White at Breastfeeding 123 remarks, “What if politicians learned of something they could do to lower health care costs yet improve infant and maternal health at the same time? Doesn’t that sound like something everyone could and should get behind?”

Marijke from Womb Within says:

Although we know about the benefits of breastfeeding and that it helps lower healthcare costs in so many ways, encouraging and offering much needed assistance to new mothers who encounter problems is still not a priority in the United States.

The government had produced a plan and came up with realistic targets, Healthy People 2010 Breastfeeding Targets, that were only met by a few states. (If you click on the Healthy People link, that gives you a pdf document report card.)

2010 is just one year away (wow, that snuck up on me!) and, according to the “breastfeeding report card,” there is still a lot of work to be done to meet the breastfeeding targets.

API Speaks, the blog of Attachment Parenting International, and Tanya at Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog are also encouraging people to sign the petition.

Heather at A Mama’s Blog recently wrote a post about melamine found in United States infant formula and then a follow-up post about the FDA’s “irresponsible” response to the melamine where they state that trace amounts of melamine are safe. She points out that beyond the health benefits, there is the added peace of mind that comes from breastfeeding because you don’t have to worry about harmful chemicals, like trace amounts of melamine, showing up in formula, as has been the case first (in larger amounts) in China and now in the United States.

It is my hope that President-elect Obama will take the petition seriously and, with the help of Tom Daschle, make the positive changes needed to create an environment where not only can we achieve our national breastfeeding targets, but women and their families can be successful in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals too.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Guest post: Diane Wiessinger in Israel on Breastfeeding Language

Hi, readers of Crunchy Domestic Goddess. My name is Hannah and I blog at A Mother in Israel about life with my six kids, parenting, and homemaking, along with social commentary about life in Israel. I also volunteer as a breastfeeding counselor. Last week I attended a conference with breastfeeding expert Diane Wiessinger. You can read my introductory post here.

Israel, aside from being a center of international conflict, is a developed country of seven million with a high birth rate. A lactation consultant told me that in her town of 30,000, enough children are born to fill six kindergarten classes every month.

In Israel breastfeeding is the default option, at least in theory. You don’t hear much about the choice to breast or bottlefeed, and mothers are expected to nurse in the hospital. But hospital routines are rigid, and in some cases babies still sleep in the nursery at night–with the mother needing to request a wake-up call that may or may not happen. Babies often get one or more bottles in the hospital. Outside of hospitals formula companies promote their products freely, even though Israel is a signatory to the WHO Code of Marketing Substitutes.

Israeli mothers receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave, up from 12 thanks to a recent law. Fathers can replace mothers at home after the first six weeks. Mothers also get a “nursing hour,” working one hour less daily, for an additional four months and in some cases up to a year of age. (Bottle-feeding mothers get it too.) La Leche League and other volunteer organizations are active, and the number of IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) has grown exponentially, but medical professionals lack knowledge and most mothers don’t make it past a few weeks or months.

A few years ago, several babies died because one type of imported soy formula lacked Vitamin B1. This caused a temporary upswing in breastfeeding rates. Unlike in the US, nursing in public is barely an issue.

One of Wiessinger’s talks is called, “Watch Your Language.” When discussing the talk with friends, I found that moms get defensive when they hear about the risks of bottle-feeding. But by exploring the connection between language and breastfeeding, we don’t mean to chastise mothers for giving formula. Mothers are subject to many pressures and make decisions that work for their families. Mothers who wean early are the last ones we should blame.

We need to change the way our culture looks at breastfeeding. The breastfeeding rates of the United States and Israel are behind those of other western countries. Since babies and mothers are fundamentally the same, the problem must lie in the culture.

In her talk Wiessinger showed how the language used to talk about breastfeeding ultimately harms mothers and babies. We use imprecise language because we are afraid: Afraid of making Continue reading Guest post: Diane Wiessinger in Israel on Breastfeeding Language

Happy 2nd birthday, baby

Me and Julian on his birth day 11/23/06 Me and Julian on his 2nd birthday 11/23/08

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since you tip-toed (quite literally since you were born feet first) into our lives. Having you as a part of our family is such a blessing, Julian. I love your kisses, “group hugs,” nose boops, and giggles so much.

It’s been incredible to watch your language explode over the past few months. It seems there’s nothing you can’t say these days, but my favorite words are, “I love you, Mommy,” followed closely by “cock-a-loo” (your name for chickens).

You show no fear and love to climb and swing on our tire swing. Sand and bugs are your friends.

You also love your sister Ava so much and enjoy being her shadow. I never tire of watching the two of you play together. Don’t get me wrong, you definitely have your squabbles, but the times when you lose yourselves in your imaginations together are the moments I want to make time stand still.

You are definitely exerting more of your independence over the past few months and some things we hear often from you these days are “uh-uh” and “don’t do dat.”

You still nurse on a semi-regular basis – before nap and bed and a few times throughout the day. I’m happy that you find both comfort and nourishment at the breast.

I love to watch you gallop across the room, whether you are riding a hobby horse or not. And nothing beats how cute you look when you run.

I can’t wait to see what this next year has in store for you. I know you have many grand adventures ahead as you continue to explore your world. Try not to grow too quickly, my love. I want you to grow up to be happy and healthy, but I want you to take your time for both our sakes. Please remember you will always be my baby boy.

I love you,
Mama

The truth is often stranger than fiction

Just a few frightening strange odds and ends from around the world:

  • Baby formula in China tainted with melamine has resulted in the death of two children and more than 1,200 others have fallen ill with hundreds hospitalized. Melamine is a trimer of cyanamide.

    Melamine has also been found in yogurt in China.

    All the more reason I’m glad I was/am able to breastfeed my children and know exactly what they were ingesting. PhDinParenting feels similarly. Makes me think I should buy my own cow though, like my sister-in-law and family have done. If only we had the land for it (and chickens, ‘cuz by golly, I still want me some chickens).

  • Dr. Phil apparently wants to make a mockery of home birth and is asking for negative home birth stories. The home birth community, rightly so in my opinion, has been in an uproar over this.From Dr. Phil’s site:
    DO YOU REGRET HAVING A HOME BIRTH?

    Did you have a child at your home?

    Did you want to have a soothing experience where you were in control and could bond with your child?

    Did it not go the way you planned?

    Do you regret having a home birth?

    Do you regret using a midwife instead of going to a hospital?

    Did you have your second child the traditional way in a hospital?

    If you or someone you know regrets having a home birth please tell us your story below.

    Be sure to be specific and include details!

    A response from the home birth community: Many of us are instead using this form to a) tell our horrible hospital stories, b) tell our great home birth stories, or c) just plain let Dr. Phil and his staff how bad we think this show concept is.

    Based on the number of emails I’ve received about this, I figure everyone under the sun is probably aware of it by now, but just in case that’s not the case, I’m passing it on. I still need to weigh in over there myself.

  • The Corn Refiners Association has created several ads about high fructose corn syrup – watch them here – to prove that it’s “natural” and “OK in moderation.” I don’t know what your take on HFCS is (I’m against it), but if you check your labels, you’ll find it in just about everything. (Have you seen King Corn yet? Check it out.) Jody was shocked to come home with a loaf of bread the other day only to discover that it, too, had HFCS in it! For the record, the bread we usually buy from Costco does not have it.

    Anyway, there’s a great article over on BlogHer debunking the ads and sharing more information. And at 5 Minutes for Going Green, Beth writes that HFCS is the “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing” and brings up the environmental concerns as well.

What do you think about all of this? Kind of a lot to digest in one post, eh?

Study: First-time moms want more information about life with new baby

A new study including 151 mothers in Brisbane, Australia has found that first-time moms want more information about what life with a newborn will be like and says they often don’t feel prepared for the recovery period after giving birth and emotional toll of caring for a new baby.

A new study published in The Journal of Perinatal Education finds first-time mothers want more information about how a newborn will impact their lives. Thirty-five percent did not feel prepared for the physical experience following birth and 20% did not feel prepared for the emotional experience.

“This study demonstrates that new mothers are eager for high-quality, accurate information of what to expect of life with a newborn,” says the study’s lead author, Margaret Barnes, RN, MA, PhD.

While I think there’s a definite benefit to educating expecting moms information on what life with a newborn may be like, (after all, knowledge is power), until every child comes with his/her own user’s manual, I think ultimately there’s only so much you can prepare for. Every woman’s birth experience is different, every child is different, and every new mother’s experience with her child is different. Each child has a unique temperament and will have different needs. Some will want to nurse every few hours, some will want to nurse much more frequently (or never let go of the boob). Every child’s sleep patterns will be different as well.

If you try to explain to a woman ahead of time how much a newborn will affect her life, is it realistic to think your words will have that much of an impact? Could it really help her prepare for what lies ahead? Is recovering from birth and caring for a newborn something anyone can really prepare for ahead of time (without having access to a full-time nanny, personal chef, housekeeper, etc.)? I feel like this is one of those things that a woman has to experience for herself to truly “get it.”

Before I had my first child I knew that once she entered the world nothing would be the same, that I would be sleep-deprived and have a baby nursing around the clock, but I couldn’t fully grasp the extent of how different my life would be, how beyond tired I would be, how sore I would be from an (unnecessary and unwanted) episiotomy, nor just how much love I could have for one tiny person until it actually happened to me.

However, I do think that it’s important to equip first-time moms especially with information and resources that will help and support them in their first few weeks and months of life with a new baby. Instead of sending moms home from the hospital with a diaper bags full of a few diapers and a can of formula, perhaps hospitals should instead give women lists of names, numbers, websites and email addresses of people, places and organizations they can turn to if they need help. Organizations like La Leche League International – with dates and times of local meetings, phone numbers to certified lactation consultants, warning signs of postpartum depression and who to call if you or someone close to you suspects you have PPD, links to groups such as Attachment Parenting International, house cleaning services, numbers of postpartum doulas, local moms support groups like MOMS Club, MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), etc. That is real information that new moms can use.

What do you think? Do you feel you were adequately prepared for life with a newborn? If not, do you think classes or a book could have helped? Do you have other suggestions?

Additional resources:


Cross-posted on BlogHer

Guest post: From my Belly to my Chest

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week and today’s post, about breastfeeding, is from Nell who blogs at Casual Friday Everyday. Please be sure to check out my earlier WBW post and giveaway (two breastfeeding books) and API Speaks is giving away a copy of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding as well.

From My Belly To My Chest

My breasts are heavy and full. The bright blue veins running through my chest also remind me of the life growing inside my womb. My entire upper body reminds me that one day this baby will be on the outside and will need my breasts to feed her/him and will no longer rely on my womb to sustain its life.

Soon I’ll be exhausted from laboring and delivering this little life and as they place the wee little one on my chest she/he will latch on for the first of many times. The life giving liquid will pour from my body giving her/him life.

It’s a beautiful and natural thing our bodies do. A pure, sweet bond is instantly developed when our young infant is nursing at our breasts. It’s also a powerful feeling, much like when giving birth. Look at what our bodies can do. Look at what they were made for.

Even with it being such a beautiful, natural and bonding thing it doesn’t always come easily for everyone. I’m one of the “unlucky” ones who experienced many of the issues some of us face. From a baby who was tongue tied to a yeast overgrowth that made my breasts ache to sore nipples that cracked and bled (the first time) to nipples that were so irritated from the pads rubbing against them they’d actually begin to invert. I’ve experienced it all…well maybe not all.

Even through the pain and difficulty I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew I was doing what was best, what I wanted to do, what this baby needed. And I fought it tooth and nail. But all the fighting on my own never got me very far into the process. The bond was lost. The nourishment gone. The natural, beautiful experience forever buried in my memory as I let go of breastfeeding.

A lot has changed since my 18 month old was an infant. My parenting style has changed. What I’m willing to do for the betterment of my children has changed. What I understand about living a more natural lifestyle, laboring naturally, vaccines, taking care of our earth and yes, breastfeeding has changed.

Aside from my increasing knowledge on such topics, another large change that I know will help me along is my desire for help. I’ve sought out the help of a doula for this labor and delivery. Doing it alone is no longer an option if I wish to achieve the birth of my dreams. And neither is breastfeeding alone. I now realize if I wish to overcome many of the hurdles I’ve experienced in the past I must get hands on help from a professional.

I must seek out the knowledge of someone who is trained and has successfully breastfed their own children for long periods of time. I’ve read all the books and emailed really amazing women with my previous experiences…now it’s time to step out of my comfort zone and get one on one guidance for as long as it takes so that I’m still nursing this new little one well into her/his second year of life.

Breastfeeding is sweet — and when it doesn’t come easy, we need to seek out help. I know I will…this time around.

Nell is the mother of two young boys with another baby on the way later this year. She’s a blogger at Casual Friday Everyday, a home-based business owner and freelance writer.

World Breastfeeding Week 2008: Support Moms (& a giveaway)

This giveaway is closed to new entries.

World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated by 120 countries worldwide Aug. 1-7, is just days away. This year’s theme is “Mother Support: Going for the Gold” and, in my opinion, is such an important one. Sure we can drive home the fact that breast is best and stress the numerous health benefits for both baby and mom, but if a mom don’t have the support she needs, the pressure from well-intentioned relatives or friends, the pressures of keeping a job, and the convenience and availability of f*rmula, coupled with the fatigue of caring for a newborn, can quickly become overwhelming and make it all too easy to give up.

2008 World Breastfeeding Week logoThe Village Midwife writes: “The WABA (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) World Breastfeeding Week program this year is promoting the Global Initiative for Mother Support, and is using the Olympic Games circles to remind us of the need for ‘circles of support.'”

I feel very fortunate that I’ve had a circle of support for the past 4+ years I’ve been breastfeeding. My mom, who breastfed me and my siblings, encouraged me, and I had the support of several friends I met through my Hypnobirthing instructor who were all breastfeeding and parenting similarly to me. While I was lucky in that I never had any serious problems with breastfeeding (knock wood), it was still wonderful to have a group of like-minded friends to turn to if the need arose.

La Leche League in the USA has a list of helpful suggestions for mothers, fathers, employers and just about everyone to help support breastfeeding mothers:

You can “go for the gold” when you —

  • give a mother the phone number of an LLL Leader.
  • tell a first-time breastfeeding mother she is doing just fine.
  • bring the new mother a nutritious snack and a big glass of water.
  • as an employer, accommodate a mother’s need to pump with a private comfortable space.
  • as the baby’s father, intercede with family and friends so that mother and baby can feel confident
  • write to legislators to support the enactment of laws supporting paid maternity leave and mother-friendly workplaces.
  • contact an emergency relief organization and request training to help in emergency situations, especially in breastfeeding support.
  • take care of your health and nutritional needs during pregnancy and lactation.
  • set up or join a network of lactation experts in your community.
  • provide transportation to a mother to attend an LLL meeting or visit a lactation consultant.
  • advocate for legislation that enacts the provisions of the WHO/UNICEF Code of Marketing.
  • ask for support and offer support to others.

As WBW approaches, there will undoubtedly be more Internet buzz about it, but here are a few WBW/breastfeeding-related contests I rounded up.

Food blogger Linda at Make Life Sweeter! is holding a Got Milk? recipe contest to help promote and celebrate World Breastfeeding Week.
The contest is open to bloggers and non-bloggers alike. All participants have to do is “Prepare a sweet dish with milk as an ingredient.
You can use any type of milk (cow, goat, sheep, …), non-dairy is allowed as long as is something that is generally substituted for milk.” After breastfeeding her two children for a combined total of 3 1/2 years, Linda says the reason for the contest is, “if this event will motivate even one mother (to-be) to breastfeed or breastfeed for a longer time it will make me feel like I’ve made a difference.” You can read the full requirements for entering the contest over at Make Life Sweeter! The deadline to enter is Aug. 7.

Breast Pumps Direct, a breast pump and accessories distributor, is holding a story contest for any woman who wants to share a story about her breastfeeding experience(s). The winner will receive a gift basket loaded with great stuff from Breast Pumps Direct. For more information, including rules, about the contest, visit www.breastpumpsdirect.com. The deadline to enter is Aug. 7.

There was also a breastfeeding photo and video contest recently held at official World Breastfeeding Week site. Here are the photo contest winners, which are just amazingly beautiful, and the video contest winners.

How about you? Will you blog about your breastfeeding experience or otherwise promote World Breastfeeding Week? What will you do to support breastfeeding mothers? If you do blog about it, please leave a comment with the link back to your post.

Breastfeeding resources:
KellyMom – one of my personal favorites for breastfeeding information
La Leche League International
Breastfeeding.com
CDC: Breastfeeding
Ask Dr. Sears : Breastfeeding
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative – a global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for lactation
Ban the Bags – a national campaign to stop f*rmula company marketing in maternity hospitals

Breastfeeding Blogs:
Black Breastfeeding Blog
Breastfeeding 1-2-3
Breastfeeding Mums
The Lactivist
Mama Knows Breast
Mocha Milk
The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog

Win It!

Mama Knows BreastThe ABCs of BreastfeedingTo help support breastfeeding moms, I’m giving away a copy of two breastfeeding books – The ABCs of Breastfeeding by Stacy H. Rubin and Mama Knows Breast: A beginner’s guide to breastfeeding by Andi Silverman. Both are wonderfully informative books and would make a great gift for any new mom or mom-to-be to assist her on her breastfeeding journey.

To be eligible to win, simply leave a comment with a helpful piece of advice for breastfeeding moms or a breastfeeding story AND let me know which book you prefer. There will be one winner for each book. The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 9.

This giveaway is part of the ginormous Bloggy Giveaway Carnival. Go check it out. 🙂

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Guest post: The Longest Birth Story Ever

While I’m on vacation until Aug. 9 (and quite possibly for the day or two after I get back), I’m featuring several guest bloggers. Today’s guest post comes from Sonja from Girl with Greencard. Sonja shares the birth story of her son Noah who was born just weeks ago.

The longest birth story ever

The plan:

Midwife-attended, natural home birth, potentially in the water.

The Husband and I made this choice for many reasons, but mainly because a normal pregnancy is not a disease and does not need to be medically managed. We wanted to have control over the parts of the birth process you can have control over, like avoiding routine interventions, knowing all the attendants, being comfortable in our surroundings, and making choices ourselves rather than having doctors or nurses make choices for us. On top of that, I was radically and irrationally afraid of being admitted to the hospital. I haven’t been to a hospital in the last 15 years or so without becoming lightheaded – and that was just when I visited others!

The preparations:

Find a midwife.

Take Bradley class.

Take many a supplement.

Buy lots of plastic sheeting and cheapo towels and set up birthing tub (sans water, of course).

Prenatal care and due dateapalooza:

After we had found a midwife and decided on the home birth, I saw both her and a midwife at Kaiser for prenatal appointments. Generally speaking, the appointments at Kaiser were awful (low iron! too much weight gain! scary big baby stories!) and the appointments with The Good Midwife (TGM) were great. I was low-risk, happy, healthy, and progressing normally. From the get-go, I had two different due dates: June 17th from Kaiser and June 19th from TGM. Then, Kaiser did the 2nd trimester ultrasound, and on the print-out it said that my due date was June 23rd.

Forward to week 35 of my pregnancy, when the baby dropped (I carried my belly between my knees all of a sudden), and TGM told me that first babies usually arrive four weeks after they drop. So now I considered my “due date” to be between June 12th and June 23rd.

Waiting…:

I didn’t have a baby on June 12th. Nor on the 13th, the 14th, or even on the 23rd. TGM went to a conference in Canada (leaving me in the capable hands of a very sweet stand-in). She was due back on July 1st, which was also my “due date + 8” (first time moms on average deliver 8 days past their due date) from June 23rd. I dealt with some crampiness and mucousiness while she was gone, but I had decided that I would have the baby on July 1st (because at that point I had STILL not gotten it into my blonde head that this was NOT UP TO ME). Starting on Thursday (June 26th), the crampiness progressed into nightly occurrences of pre-labor (or false labor), which was exciting, but robbed both me and The Husband of sleep. And… it didn’t progress into anything serious at all.

I didn’t have a baby on July 1st. Nor on July 2nd. I was getting a little desperate. Okay. A lot desperate.

Finally! Labor! Wooohooo!

Thursday night, July 3rd, I could tell my contractions were different. The Husband and I decided that FINALLY! I was in labor, and called TGM to giver her a heads-up. I took the birthday cake out of the freezer. In between my contractions we talked about how our baby had just waited so he could have parades and fireworks for his birthday every year. Needless to say, we were excited. Of course, being obedient Bradley students, we went to sleep. That is, The Husband went to sleep. I realized that real contractions are a heck of a lot more painful lying in bed that in pretty much any other position, so I walked around and dropped to my knees a lot.

Towards the morning, I felt increasingly annoyed with the contractions and got in the birth tub. This of course slowed the contractions waaaaay down, but I managed to wedge myself in so I could take a floating nap, which was great.

TGM arrived around daybreak. I was only 3 cm dilated and incredibly discouraged. She recommended resting and distracting ourselves during the day and felt sure that my contractions would pick up again at night.

The next night went much like the night before. When TGM arrived at the house early the next morning, I was 3 cm dilated and clearly not in labor. Also ready to jump off a cliff – angry, annoyed, and just way too pregnant to deal with still being pregnant.

Hospital:

That Saturday was a long day. Saturday night was the first night in over a week that went by without so much as a single little cramp from ye olde uterus. Sunday morning, I had a really hard time peeing. By 9am, I couldn’t really pee at all even though I had been drinking water and juice like crazy. I figured that this was just a new nuisance of being extremely pregnant – baby is putting pressure on my bladder (because BOY did I have to go!) and simultaneously sitting on the exit. It wasn’t until I dissolved into tears trying to pee at church around 11am that it dawned on me that something was not right (I’m real bright sometimes, what can I say!). We went home. I called TGM who phone diagnosed me with a UTI (a diagnosis that proved accurate though I shrugged it off as preposterous because it didn’t feel like a UTI) and sent me to urgent care.

Of course, when we got to the Kaiser hospital, we were re-routed from urgent care to labor and delivery.

I was asked to pee in a cup (HAHAHA!) and actually managed to squeeze out a few drops. I had to exchange my clothes for the breezy gown and was hooked up to a fetal monitor. A surly midwife scolded me for not having come in for a biophysical profile at 41 weeks. And this, my dears, is when I found out that Kaiser only adjusts the due date based on the 2nd trimester ultrasound if it is more than two weeks different from the due date based on LMP (which I think is sound medically – I just wish I had asked that question back in January!). In other words, June 23rd had never actually been my due date, which now put me at almost 43 weeks pregnant. I felt like a giant fool. But not for long, because of the commotion – baby’s heart rate dropped! Dramatically! To the 50s! Nurses rushed into the room, The Husband was pushed out of the way, and an oxygen mask was pressed on my face. As soon as the monitor had been adjusted, baby’s heart rate was fine again, but this “random decel” turned into another Big Deal, though I am convinced that it only happened because the monitor moved on my giant belly.

An ultrasound determined that I had next to no amniotic fluid left (not good) and an exam revealed that my bag of waters had ruptured – unbeknownst to me. It had quite possibly (and likely) been ruptured for three or four days (really not good).

So here I was – with premature rupture of membranes, too little amniotic fluid, a “random decel” of baby’s heart rate, a UTI, and 2 weeks 5 days past my due date. Oh, and without any contractions. We agreed to induction, happy that they were offering it rather than arguing for a c-section right away.

Intervention carnival:

Before I knew it, I had an IV with fluids and antibiotics. My bladder was catheterized (oh, sweet relief!), fetal monitoring was done internally (sorry baby!), and I got an infusion of amniotic fluid. Once everything was situated, they hooked me up to Pitocin.

Fast-forward about 12 hours. I was stalled at 7 cm but felt veeeery pushy with each contraction. Baby’s head was tilted (not good) and his heart rate continued to have “random decels” (Pitocin side effect). TGM had come to the hospital to support us, and at this point, she recommended I get an epidural to give me the chance to continue dilating without having to try not to push, to relax me so that perhaps baby’s head would move into a more favorable position, and to allow me to get some rest. I went for it, and it really helped. I dilated to 9 cm while I took a little nap. Baby’s head turned. I got a second wind. But… I had to keep the oxygen mask on at all times to prevent baby’s heart rate from dropping (and take slow, deep breaths). Baby had turned posterior (no wonder – I had to labor on my back!) and I stalled at 9 cm with my cervix stuck between baby’s head and my pubic bone.

We decided that at that point, a c-section would be the best option to get the baby out safely.

Noah was born at 10:15am on Monday, July 7th. He was covered in meconium, but had APGARs of 8 and 9. His daddy fought the nurses for skin to skin contact while they were cleaning and suctioning him and then stayed with Noah until they had sewn me back up. I was able to hold and even nurse Noah in recovery – before I could even wiggle my toes (or actually really feel my boobs).

The aftermath

Healing from a c-section is no picnic. Getting into and out of bed was nearly impossible for the first few days – even in the hospital. At 16 days post-surgery, I still cannot carry Noah and the diaper bag at the same time. I don’t stand a chance lifting the stroller into or out of the trunk of the car. Sneezing, coughing, and blowing my nose are extremely painful – I feel as though those things rip me apart at my incision.

Healing emotionally

I’m actually doing pretty well emotionally. I certainly have learned a lot.

One of the reasons why I chose a home birth was my fear of hospitals. I didn’t want to have to assert myself and to fight for the natural birth I wanted. In many ways, home birth was the path of least resistance for me. Not only did the hospital turn out to be very accommodating of all of my special little requests, but I never felt judged for my decisions (like refusing the eye treatment and Hep B vaccine for Noah). My wishes were actually respected (I told the first nurse I did not want pain medication offered to me and nobody ever mentioned it after that.)! I felt well taken care of the entire time I was in the hospital, and I realized how strong I was. I was able to get what I wanted without having to drop-kick anybody (or even arguing for it).

I know that I did everything I could to have a natural delivery. I feel that all interventions were medically necessary. Sure, the Pitocin led to the random decels in baby’s heart rate which ultimately led to the c-section, but I did need the Pit to get me to go into labor. The stalling at 9cm and baby’s poor position could have been avoided (or remedied) had I been able to move around while in labor, but again – with the issues I came in with, laboring on the bed was my only option.

And so I learned that the hospital is not an evil place (though choose your hospital wisely if you’re planning to birth there), that I am stronger than I thought (I sort of want to cross-stitch “12 hours on pit with not pain meds” into a pillow), and that even though it can sometimes appear as though they are, medical professionals are NOT the enemy (but… do your research! I’m always amazed at people making decisions based on little to no background info. One of the nurses actually asked me if I was a nurse because of how much I knew about labor and birth.).

And to end the longest birth story ever told (which is fitting since it felt like the longest pregnancy known to womankind), here are some photos:

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Girlwithgreencard is the pseudonym of Sonja. She is a retired elementary school teacher and new SAHM living the high life of smog, terrible traffic, and crazy hot summers in Southern California. She has a green card because she came to the States from Germany eight years ago to get married to this guy she fell madly in love with. Sonja likes the smell of rain and her baby’s blissed-out smile when he comes off her boob. She very much dislikes crumply sheets and people talking on cell phones in public restrooms.

Sonja chronicles her daily life at Girl with Greencard and shows off her crafting endeavors at Girl with Fabric.